Porn Auteur Wakefield Poole Dead at 85

Monday November 29, 2021

Porn auteur Wakefield Poole, known for explicit gay films like "Boys in the Sand," has died at age 85, The New York Times reported in an obituary.

A dancer by profession, Poole became interested in filmmaking and created a few short projects using Super8 and 16mm film, the Bay Area Reporter said. But it was a less than gratifying night at a gay adult film theater that sparked his determination to make erotic movies.

The BAR recalled that Poole "went to see the 1971 Tom DeSimone film 'Highway Hustler' with five friends," only for the experience to leave him, as well as the others in the group, cold: "I was laughing, one was sleeping, one was bored to death," Poole explained in a 1977 interview.

"Someone ought to be able to make a porno film that is attractive, and that no one is degraded in, and I just decided to do it," Poole said, adding that he bought a Bolex camera and shot the first segment of "Boys In The Sand" in response to the experience.

Commenting on his cinematic vision, the NYT said Poole worked "as if he were some very horny version of D.A. Pennebaker, striving to portray artful realism in the male intimacy he was documenting." The subjects of the film were his friends, as well as professional adult film actor Casey Donovan.

The result was a movie that, despite coming out a year before "Deep Throat," carved itself a spot into the mainstream of the zeitgeist.

The film's naturalistic depiction of sexual activity between men "came across to viewers as blissful and guilt-free," the NYT article said. "Soon, celebrities like Liza Minnelli, Rudolf Nureyev and Halston were also lining up to see it."

The way "Boys in the Sand" crossed over into mainstream success with heterosexual audiences wasn't the only way the movie broke new ground; the NYT recalled that it enjoyed an ad in the Times, as well as being reviewed by Variety.

"I wanted a film that gay people could look at and say, 'I don't mind being gay — it's beautiful to see those people do what they're doing,'" Pooled said of the movie.

One other notable first was that Poole's real name appeared on the marquee. Poole noted that this openness made a huge impact on the people who took note of it.

"There weren't a lot of people who were out," Poole noted of the times. "Hundreds of people saw 'Boys in the Sand' and came out after seeing the film," he went on to add.

Poole went on to make subsequent projects, among them a straight softcore film based on the stories in the Bible. (That film flopped.) Eventually, he relocated to San Francisco with Peter Fisk, his partner at the time, only for the two to break up. They remained partners in business, however, establishing an art gallery along with a third man, Paul Hatlestad.

"It was also in San Francisco in the '70s that Poole began smoking cocaine and descended into addiction," the BAR recalled. Even so, in 1974 Poole and Donovan made another film, "Moving." After that, the BAR recalled, Poole "would go on to direct five more feature films and two shorts."

Poole was the subject of a 2013 documentary by Jim Tushinski, "I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole," which recounted his careers as a dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker.